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Dr Zena Gerig will be teaching classes in heaven

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 09, 2011    

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FOUNDER of the Jamaica Theological Seminary (JTS) and the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology (CGST) Dr Zena Gerig was eulogised as a faithful servant of God, a regional visionary and a pioneer in education during a memorial service held in his honour at the Grace Missionary Church in Kingston on Wednesday.

Although a funeral service was held for the late educator in Lowell, Michigan where he lived with his wife Esther and three children Stan, Laurel and Stephen on September 23, there was still a large turnout for the local memorial service.

Several of the nation's leading pastors, who would have benefited from his tutelage at either one or both of the two institutions he had established, were among those who turned out to pay their last respects. The JTS was founded in 1960 while Dr Gerig was a missionary living in Jamaica. The CGST was started much later in 1986.

Reverend Peter Garth of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals described Dr Gerig as one of God's outstanding servants; even as he spoke about the impact he had on him during his time at the JTS where he became the valedictorian.

"I am what I am today because of the Jamaica Theological Seminary," said the pastor who during his tribute injected humour as he recalled some of his visits to Dr Gerig's office during his school days.

President of the Missionary Church Association, Reverend Rennard White who is also a graduate of the institution, had fond memories of the educator who he said was blessed with an abundance of humility which he portrayed during his years in Jamaica.

"Based on his humility, it is no wonder that he founded an institution that on the one hand is known for its scholarship and all of that, and on the other hand for its spirituality," the pastor noted while being keen to point out that the pastor never had "his swag turned up".

The pastor said the life led by the former educator should remind us that we should always strive to finish well.

"It is one thing to start wonderfully, but it is how you finish that is important," he said.

Dr Gerig was born on a farm in Spencerville, Indiana in 1927 and was ordained a minister in the Missionary church in 1954. He and his wife Esther served with the Overseas Board of the Missionary Church Inc in Jamaica for 43 years. He also worked with several organisations including the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, The Evangelicals Association of the Caribbean, the World Evangelical Fellowship, the Caribbean Evangelical Theological Association and the Inter-Schools' Christian Fellowship.

Dr Gerig's tireless service did not go unnoticed and in 2001, the educator was awarded the Order of Distinction, commander class for service to theological education.

But while most spoke of Dr Gerig's commitment to the evangelisation of the nation, his son Stan remembered him as a dedicated father who provided a stable environment for him and his siblings.

"He was willing in spite of his business to be a dad to us," said Stan who alluded to his father's ability to tolerate the raft of pets they had as children.

Meanwhile, Dr John Keane from the CGST, said he was inspired by Dr Gerig's selfless service and humility.

"Jamaica was very fortunate to have a man of his calibre coming to its shores," he said.

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